As the 31 January deadline for online self-assessment tax returns looms, we cover some key points for those who have yet to submit their figures for 2013-14.

1. Don’t miss the deadline

If you are able to log on to the HMRC website, you can make a tax return up to midnight on 31 January. To log on you need a valid user ID and password. You will have to have activated your account with the code you were sent by HMRC.

2. Estimate figures you don’t have

Rather than miss the deadline because you’re waiting for an individual figure (from a bank, for example) you can enter an estimate or provisional figure on your tax return and submit this immediately. You should indicate this is what you have done on the return and amend your return with the actual figure as soon as you have it.

3. Make sure your return has been received by HMRC

When you submit your online return, make sure you wait for an acknowledgement to appear on the screen and note down your submission receipt reference number. You should also receive an email acknowledgement from HMRC. This is proof that you met the 31 January deadline.

4. Don’t ignore HMRC if you’ve missed the deadline

Fines for late tax returns are automatic. You will be charged £100 the moment you miss the midnight 31 January deadline. If you continue to delay, your fine will increase. After 3 months, you’ll start to be fined £10 a day. Further fines follow, so it’s worth submitting a return as soon as possible and keeping these to a minimum.

5. Let HMRC know if there are mitigating circumstances

Very few ‘excuses’ are accepted by HMRC for late tax returns, but if something unexpected or outside your control prevented you from making a return, you might succeed in an appeal. Examples include the death of a partner shortly before the tax deadline, an unexpected stay in hospital, or a fire which prevented you from completing your return.

I know there is only just a few days left but if you have any questions and would like some financial advice and you are located in Leamington spa and surrounding areas please do not hesitate to contact us.